Real-time tactics (RTT)

Real-time tactics (RTT) is a subgenre of tactical wargames played in real-time simulating the considerations and circumstances of operational warfare and military tactics. It is also sometimes considered a subgenre of real-time strategy and may in this context exist as an element of gameplay or as a basis for the whole game. It is differentiated from real-time strategy gameplay by the lack of resource micromanagement and base building, as well as the greater importance of individual unitsand a focus on complex battlefield tactics. The RTT genre is less commonly called fixed-unit real-time strategy or real-time combat simulator.

Real-time tactics games generally endeavour to present a realistic experience of battlefield tactics.

Typical real-time strategy titles generally encourage the player to focus on logistics and production as much as or more than combat, whereas real-time tactics games more commonly do not feature resource-gathering, production, base-building or economic management, instead focusing on tactical and operational aspects of warfare such as unit formations or the exploitation of terrain for tactical advantage.

Real-time tactical gameplay is characterized by the expectation of players to complete their tasks using only the combat forces provided to them, and usually by the provision of a realistic (or at least believable) representation of military tactics and operations. This contrasts with other current wargame genres: for instance, in large-scale turn-based strategy games battles are generally abstracted and the gameplay close to that of related board games, and real-time strategy games de-emphasize realism and focus on the collection and conversion of resources into production capacities which manufacture combat units thereafter used in generally highly stylised confrontations. In contrast, real-time tactics games‘ military tactical and realistic focus and comparatively short risk/reward cycleusually provide a distinctly more immediate, intense and accessible experience of battlefield tactics and mêlée than strategy games of other genres.

As suggested by the genre’s name, also fundamental to real-time tactics is real-time gameplay. The genre has its roots in tactical and miniature wargaming, the recreation of battle scenarios using miniatures or even simple paper chits. These board and table-top games were out of necessity turn-based: Only with computer support was turn-based play and strategy successfully transposed into real-time. Turn-based strategy and turn-based tactics were obvious candidates for computer implementation. As computer implementation eventually allowed for ever more complex rulesets, some games became less timeslice-focused and more continuous until eventually „realtime“ play was achieved.

Compared to other strategy games, games of the real-time tactics genre often have distinctly detailed and complex environments due to the tactical implications of elevation, hard cover and true line of sight. Due to the demands of realism units in real-time tactical games also often have a significant degree of autonomy over their actions within the context of their orders compared to the relatively or fully passive units of other strategy genres (e.g. units in MechCommander 2 are remarkably autonomous).

Further, in many real-time tactics games a player’s force is maintained between battles. This allows units to become more proficient as they gain more battle experience and can even encourage an affinity between the player and his or her troops, breaking down the stereotypical anonymity of the expendable, mass-produced units found in strategic games. To this end Bungie Studios‘ Myth series gave each soldier a unique name, and in Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat and Warhammer: Dark Omen units were individually named and under the leadership of their own captains with distinct visual and vocal feedback.

Genre classification

While some publications do refer to „RTT“ as a genre others consider it to be a sub-genre of real-time strategy, there are also publications that do not make such distinctions. Nonetheless, there are often efforts to distinguish these games from the classic perceptions of the „RTS“ denomination; titles of the genre has been described as „real-time combat simulators“ and „military strategy“ games, Nexus: The Jupiter Incident was called a „tactical fleet simulator“ by its developers, and Blitzkrieg II was somewhat verbosely called a „real time simulator of WWII battles on company regimental level“ rather than „real-time strategy“ in a review.

Relatively few developers or publishers use the terms „RTT“ or „real-time tactics“ in marketing, though one example is Massive Entertainment, which explicitly described its game Ground Control II: Operation Exodus as real-time tactics rather than a real-time strategy title (which is ironic in that the title veered toward a real-time strategy mode by introducing resources and in-battle reinforcements unlike its predecessor); David Heart of Matrix Games describes the Close Combat series as „the overall tone emphasized realism, and modelled the emotional state of the units under your command, including panic, desertion, and surrender. Close Combat was never an RTS in the classic sense since resource gathering and other typical factors played no part in the game. Close Combat was far more of a tactical simulation and would be better described as a RTTS (Real Time Tactical Simulation)“ and f.i. Close Combat: Modern Tactics is sold as a „real time tactical warfare“ game on their site; and Namco Bandai announced the „Battle March“ expansion to their 2006 title Warhammer: Mark of Chaos as „tactical real-time“.

Establishing the genre: the late-nineties rise in popularity

Perhaps the first game that can be recognised as a qualified exemplar of the real-time tactics genre was Fields of Glory, released in 1993 by MicroProse. The game was a purely real-time tactical wargame that attempted to realistically recreate several of the major battles of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Waterloo campaign. Though meticulous and ambitious it suffered from the low-resolution graphics of the day and had to compromise with the visual presentation of its large-scale battles and abstracted away low-level battlefield aspects.

Around 1995, however, computer hardware and developer support systems had developed enough to facilitate the requirements of large-scale real-time tactical games. It was in 1995 that the regimentally focused wargame Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat was released, groundbreaking not only in that it focused purely on the operational aspects of combat (with all aspects pertaining: regimental manoeuvring and formations, support tactics, terrain, etc.), nor only in that it was entirely real-time, but also that it introduced zoomable and rotatable 3D terrain. In 1997 Firaxis Games‘ released Sid Meier’s Gettysburg!, a detailed and faithful recreation of some of the most significant battles of the American Civil War that introduced large scale tactical battlefield command using 3D.

3D visuals only became established in the real-time strategy genre around eight years after their advent in real-time tactics; it could be argued that the nature of real-time tactics games and the genre’s focus lends more naturally to 3D representation, for instance to check line of sight, while the faster pace, rapid-click, highly stylized nature of real-time strategy games were better presented in 2D. Real-time tactics games need not be in 3D however: the Close Combat series as well as Sudden Strike, both successful titles, functioned in two dimensions. Released in 1996 by Atomic Games, Close Combat is a simulation of squad- and platoon-type World War II combat tactics which introduced a higher degree of operational realism than seen before. Combat Mission went even further. Further, as Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat was a translation of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle table-top system, FASA Studios‘ MechCommander from 1998 was a translation of the BattleTech boardgame into a 2D computer game format.

In 1997, Bungie released Myth, which introduced radically larger battlefields than ever before and included a realistic (at the time) physics engine. In 2000, Creative Assembly created Shogun: Total War taking map sizes even further as well as introducing historical and tactical realism on levels until then unheard of in real-time computer games. Ground Control was also released in 2000, gaining much attention for its luscious visuals but earning developers Massive Entertainment few sales. In 2007 World in Conflict, also made by Massive Entertainment was released and is currently the last game made in this genre.

Sources: Wikipedia Modified by Fanterazzi

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